It’s nearly March and it’s time to put those new year resolutions into action! Have you been dreaming of setting up a clothing side hustle, adding a clothing line to your existing business or turning your artwork into a range of tees? Team Sea Dog are here to inspire you to do just that, we’ve been seeking out some top tips from experienced business owners to give you inspiring clothing brand entrepreneurs some invaluable advise. In our first interview we caught up with long time customer, Fiona, inspirational designer and business owner who runs eco-friendly clothing brand Earthmonk…
Fiona Hancock of Earth Monk
Hey Fiona! Tell us a bit about your brand…
We started Earthmonk six years ago after a conversation that began in the garden over chocolate and coffee on a warm Summer’s day. Our dream was to create clothing with soul. To share spiritual and uplifting messages on T-shirts. We wanted people to be able to wear clothes that would inspire and motivate them. We are very small, independent brand and we still work from home. It’s mainly Fiona who runs Earthmonk with part time assistance from Gavin (her husband). We now sell a range of spiritual, organic and ethical tops, sweaters and hoodies as well as beanies, tote bags and a small selection of meaningful and symbolic jewellery.
Dandelion Affirmation Design – One Colour Screen Print Onto Cotton T-Shirts
How and why did you start your brand?
Having both followed spiritual paths for many years we wanted to do something with our experience, as well as the vast amount of timeless wisdom which we had read upon the way. We thought creating spiritual clothing would be an amazing platform for sharing this knowledge with the world. It’s niche but that was the heart of our brand and our purpose and that remains the case. We had no clue about what we were doing so we paid for help to build our website and source our clothing however even in the time we have been in business the market has changed and it’s now easier than ever to create your own website and use companies like Sea Dog Print Studio, who can get you the tops and print them for you.
Now that you are an established brand, if you were just starting out, is there anything you would do differently?
If we knew then what we know now we might not have started Earthmonk haha! As with everything the reality is much harder than the dream but with perseverance and lots of hard work anything is possible. We had our T-shirts hand made for us in Portugal and whilst the quality and cut is outstanding we did have to buy in bulk. Our advice to anyone starting out is to do the opposite – buy minimal amounts, trial your designs and see what sells and what doesn’t, basically keep everything on as small a budget as possible.
It’s really important to meet your customers face to face but we have wasted money paying to attend events where we didn’t sell much. So before you part with your cash work out your customer profile and only go to events where they will be. This Christmas we were invited to attend two events. Instead of paying to go I went along as a customer to check them out. One had hardly any footfall (shoppers) and the other wasn’t a right match for us. Neither would have cost that much to attend but taking your shop out to an event takes hours and hours of prepping, packing it can also be very demoralising not selling anything. So I was very grateful not to have wasted our time and energy.
Illustrated design screenprinted with split fountain ink (2 coloured inks used on the same screen to create a gradient effect)
Have you got any tips for aspiring eco-friendly clothing brand entrepreneurs?
Getting out in front of customers at local fairs, markets, events as well as major festivals (although this does require a lot of investment in kit) is incredibly useful. Not only do you get to enjoy one to one contact and experience selling directly it’s a great source of feedback. Your customers will tell you what you think of shapes, colours and styles and sometimes it’s quite brutal feedback so remember that customer service smile at all times. For example we learnt very quickly that we needed to extend our range to include larger, inclusive sizes, and at one festival when we brought out our first line of dandelion affirmation goodies we sold out of everything with that printed on it. What we now know is that if it sells out on the road it will sell on line.
And lastly even if it’s just you starting your new company you are still part of a team. From your local delivery driver, web designer, post mistress to your super, hand screen printing team you never really do this job alone so be kind and enjoy establishing a great working relationship with everyone makes the day brighter and life easier.